When you think about robotic companies, General Electrics probably doesn’t come to mind.
But coming off of the Second World War in the 1950’s, GE was dabbling in all sorts of projects — including robotics — and the company quickly became a pioneer in the space.
The US Military soon partnered with GE to create some of the most futuristic looking robots that were way ahead of their time technologically.
Check them out.
The Handyman was a robotic manipulator developed to handle delicate materials.
In 1958, GE worked with the US Military to create a manipulator that was sensitive enough to handle delicate objects and that could be controlled remotely.
GE engineer Ralph Mosher helped create the Handyman and described it in a technical paper as a “two-armed master-slave manipulator used to handle radioactive equipment.”
A wearable control harness enabled the operator to control the giant mechanical arms. Every time the operator made a gesture or hand movement while wearing the harness, the manipulator would mimic the motion.
Here’s the Handyman twirling a Hula hoop.
“The coupling is so direct and detailed that the man does not have to think about operating the machine. He simply concentrates on the manipulation task itself; he observes the actions of the mechanical arms and hands as if they were his own,” Mosher stated in his paper.
Mosher called the Hadyman a Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine (CAM) and he saw this kind of control system being useful a wide variety of applications.
According to the paper, he said the Handyman’s control system could be used to manipulate things in outerspace, in the depths of the ocean, and for industrial purposes, like construction work.
GE’s Hardiman was a giant exoskeleton that would give the wearer superhuman strength.
Funded by the US Military in 1968, the Hardiman was the natural evolution of the Handyman. However, instead of remotely controlling a manipulator, the Hardiman was a wearable manipulator.
The Hardiman, also known as the “man amplification device,” enabled the wearer to lift more than 1,400 pounds.
The suit was attached to the operator at the feet, forearms, and waist.
“The exoskeleton, called ‘Hardiman,’ mimics the movements of its wearer, presenting a literal union of man and machine. Thus, the human’s flexibility, intellect, and versatility are combined with the machine’s strength and endurance,” the Naval Research Review stated in its July 1967 edition.
However, because the Hardiman itself weighed 1,500 pounds and lacked stability, it never saw mass production.
GE created the Pedipulator in the early 1960’s.
In 1962, GE created a walking machine that a human could control with levers.
GE’s first attempt was the Pedipulator, a machine with two 12-foot legs. The Pedipulator was controlled by a human operator that rode in a compartment above the legs.
However, it didn’t actually walk. It was developed to prove that a human could balance in such a machine, according to a report by Mosher prepared for the US Army.
The bi-pedal robot did move, though. It would mimic the operator’s actions each time he leaned forward or back.
You can see an operator balancing in the machine here.
The Pedipulator was never completed because the Army decided that a four-legged machine would be more stable.
GE demonstrated its giant Pedipulator in 1964.
GE’s Walking Truck robot was a four-legged machine controlled by a human operator.
In the 1960’s, the Army was looking for a vehicle that could carry a soldiers equipment through difficult terrain, according to GE’s blog.
So in 1965, GE created the Walking Truck robot, which was the evolution of the Pedipulator.
Standing at about 11-feet tall, the Walking Truck was capable of carrying up to 500 pounds of supplies and could push 1,000 pounds across a concrete floor, according to the US Army Transportation Museum’s website.
It was also controlled by a human operator who rode inside the machine.
The walking truck had a top speed of about four miles per hour.
While it wasn’t very fast, the machine was capable of moving around and climbing over obstacles.
The machine was delivered to the Army in 1970, but never made it out of testing.
According to the U.S. Army Transportation Museum, one of the biggest challenges with the machine was that it required 50 gallons of oil per minute to operate, so it had to be attached to hydraulic lines at all times.
This article was originally published on Tech Insider. Read the original here.
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